SOUTH FLORIDA COMMUNITY RECOVERY MOVEMENT: PROMOTING A NEW ERA OF ADVOCACY- BASED VOLUNTEERISM

K.J. Foster

SOUTH FLORIDA COMMUNITY RECOVERY MOVEMENT

Individuals struggling with addiction issues face many barriers and challenges that significantly impede upon the recovery process. Discrimination, access to treatment, health insurance, employment, and housing have long-been obstacles to building healthy and successful long-term recovery. Advocacy efforts and volunteerism, especially the service work of those in recovery themselves, have gone a long way in helping to change policies and educate the public on the needs, rights and struggles of those in recovery.

Historically, South Florida has been a haven for those struggling with addiction. For decades, the community of Delray Beach has been considered a mecca for addiction recovery. With access to a multitude and variety of 12-Step meetings, and some of the best treatment centers in the country, Delray Beach and its surrounding communities have made a significant contribution to the field of addiction recovery and advocacy within the field. Not to mention, the countless lives that have been saved in the process.

South Florida’s reputation as THE BEST place in the country, if not the world, to go for addiction treatment was not built overnight, and it did not happen by chance. It happened through the tireless and collective efforts of individuals in the recovery community and the field of human services. It happened through volunteerism. A volunteerism that advocates for the needs of those seeking effective and legitimate addiction treatment from qualified and caring professionals.

A few of the early pioneers of this advocacy-based volunteer effort in South Florida were Jim Bryan, Peter Fairclough, and Phyllis Michelfedler. Jim Bryan, founder of the Beachcomber Family Center for Alcoholism and Addiction Recovery, one of the area’s oldest and most prominent treatment centers since 1976, was an area leader in the field of addiction treatment and advocacy. Peter Fairclough, another early pioneer, founded the Comprehensive Alcoholism Rehabilitation Programs, Inc. (CARP). CARP was one of the largest, most comprehensive substance abuse programs operating under a single administration in South Florida since its inception in 1967. Phyllis Michelfedler, one of the co-founders of the historic Wayside House, devoted her entire life to the rehabilitation of women with alcohol and drug problems. These pioneers are just a few of the early servant leaders in the field of addiction recovery who began as volunteers themselves. A volunteerism and servant leadership that is needed now more than ever as our industry and advocacy efforts have regressed in recent years.

With the explosion of the nationwide opioid epidemic, even more discrimination, barriers to treatment, health insurance, and housing issues exist than ever before. The sober homes invasion, unscrupulous treatment operators, and patient brokering issues have made it that much harder for individuals and families to navigate the field of addiction treatment and recovery options. An issue that is not isolated to South Florida. This is a significant problem that is spreading all-across the country, tarnishing and fractioning the efforts of an entire industry. No area of the country is completely safe from predators seeking to take advantage of this vulnerable population. With the clean-up efforts in South Florida well under-way, many unscrupulous treatment operators and sober homes are moving out into other States, making it imperative that other States adopt similar policies and practices to South Florida.

There are many organizations leading the charge in community cleanup and recovery efforts here in South Florida and should be considered model programs for other States. A few worth highlighting are the Sober Homes Task Force, the South County Recovery Residence Association (SCRRA), and the Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition (PBCSAC). The Sober Homes Task Force is working with the State Attorney’s office to eliminate the illegitimate sober homes and treatment operators. The SCRRA is a local watchdog society of certified recovery residences that have joined together to raise the bar for recovery residences in Palm Beach County. SCRRA also provides education and disseminates information to the public and local government agencies. PBCSAC has been working to keep Palm Beach County communities healthy, safe and drug-free since 1982. Although its’ overarching goal is recovery awareness, it has many task force initiatives addressing a vast array of community issues related to drug abuse.

The Recovery Awareness Partnership (RAP) is one of the four PBCSAC task force initiatives, and works toward addressing emerging issues specific to the South Florida recovery community and general advocacy within the field. RAP’s 3-tiered approach, in partnership with treatment center alumni and staff, and community representatives, is to improve the recovery community through:

1. Sharing stories of successful addiction treatment in South Florida
(of which there are thousands).
2. Educating and empowering individuals and families
3. Improving access to treatment. RAP’s efforts are both missioncritical and ground-breaking in the South Florida community recovery movement, and with it promotes a whole new era of advocacy-based volunteerism.

Thanks to the efforts of these organizations, along with many other area organizations and the individuals who support them, South Florida is still one of THE BEST options for addiction recovery treatment in the country. Nonetheless, just like any other recovery effort, it requires a consistent effort through continued and collective action. There is not a single person in this country, at this point, that does not have a personal connection to this issue. The community recovery movement in Delray Beach and all over South Florida is not just a single community effort, it is a collective effort that needs to expand and become a national effort. A collective voice is an effective voice!

With literally millions of lives at stake, more people must get involved. Not just here in South Florida, but across the nation. For those who are local to the South Florida area and looking for a way to get involved, the following RAP events are excellent opportunities for individuals, families, local businesses, and community leaders to come together in a collective effort to support the South Florida recovery community.

Meet the Candidates – February 27, 2018 @ 7 pm, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Delray Beach. Find out what the Delray Beach Mayor and Commissioner Candidates think. This will be a moderated forum with questions and answers. Refreshments will be served.

Reach Out for Recovery- March 10, 2018 @ 8 am, Old School Square, Delray Beach.

For more information regarding these events and other opportunities to get involved, please contact the Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition at 561-844-5952 or go to www.pbcsac.org. Karrol-Jo (KJ) Foster is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Addiction Professional, and an Advanced Certified Relapse Prevention Specialist. KJ is also a PhD Candidate at FAU researching the impact of relapse risk, shame and wellbeing on addiction recovery. In addition to her research, KJ recently authored a book chapter on 12-Step Spirituality and has lectured locally, nationally and internationally on the topics of shame, addiction recovery and spirituality. KJ is a member of ACA, ASERVIC, FMHCA and Past-President of the Beta Rho Chi Chapter of Chi Sigma Iota Counseling Academic & Professional Honor Society International.